Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Local Man Stops Robbery by Quoting Steely Dan Lyrics

Actually this never happened, but I would be curious to see how it would turn out.

Becker and Fagen: You really want to fuck with these dudes?
See, a number of times on Facebook recently, I have seen people link to this Onion-esque article about some guy who used dialogue from Pulp Fiction to scare off a couple who were robbing a coffee shop (if you haven't read it yet...). I didn’t peruse the piece thoroughly, but I glanced through it enough to digest it as a piece of mildly entertaining absurdist satire (as opposed to those who seemed to think it was a real news story) exploring a geek’s fantasies of badassitude, getting the opportunity to (pretend to) be the menacing man of action he saw in the movies.

It was amusing enough. Obviously (at least to most), something like this would never work. I mean, really, Pulp Fiction? Too well known. Sure, it has somehow retained a reputation as a “cult movie” long after it completely permeated mainstream culture, but let’s be serious. It was a cult movie for about 20 minutes in 1994 in that gap between the indie hype wearing off but before the Oscar nominations. Fine, sure, for a while into 1995, Pulp Fiction was still a favorite and inspiration to film students whose idea of a good time was to watch epic Kubrick and Kurosawa marathons in their dorm rooms until they were so sensory-overloaded and exhausted that they could be completely distracted from issues like student loans for worthless degrees and wondering why they were still virgins. But then I digress. The fact is that I would not take someone quoting Pulp Fiction dialogue seriously unless they had their stiletto blade already sticking half-way into my esophagus. It’s just too common.

Making hardened criminals so shocked and disconcerted that they would just turn and run? That takes some seriously obscure references, man. That requires material so oblique and ironic that the attacker will be forced to ask himself “is this 80 pound weakling crazy in the ‘makes sculptures of his first grade crush out of his own excrement’ way, or the ‘will kill me and carve Philip K. Dick quotes over my mutilated body’ way?” What would have that effect?

The answer to this conundrum is Steely Dan. “But they were mainstream, too,” I hear you say. Sure, they had some hits in the 70s. They snuck a few overly intellectual bits onto the Billboard charts. They also composed some of the most sophisticated and darkly humorous music of the 70s. They wrote songs about Charles Whitman type clock tower snipers, down and out criminals, and perverted old men who show pornographic 8mm films to the neighbors’ children. I mean, they won a fucking Grammy for writing about a guy trying to schtup his cousin. Not to mention that they named themselves after a talking dildo in a William Burroughs novel, for shit’s sake. And I’ll tell you this: Taken out of context, a lot of their lyrics, spoken with a steady gaze, unwavering voice, and ambiguously malevolent intention, can be pretty menacing.

So try this: Next time you find yourself in yourself in the presence of someone who is armed and wishes to use that advantage in the furtherance of a crime of violence or economic gain, confront the attacker and say these words:

I could be wrong but I have seen your face before. Are you with me? Or are you really just a shadow of the man that I once knew? I don't care. A man of my mind can do anything. You got the muscle; I got the news. Anybody on the street, has murder in his eyes. So unhand that gun. There's no one to fire upon. And I don't need that kind of action. Don't you know there's fire in the hole and nothing left to burn? It's Cancellation Day. Yes, the Big Adios is just a few hours away. Be glad if you can use what you borrow. In the end, will you still have a song to sing when the razor boy comes and takes your fancy things away?

I think it will make any would-be assailants think twice before they tried to tangle with someone as cultured as you.

(Note: The author of this piece bears no responsibility for injuries or other repercussions arising from actually trying this stupid shit.)